Friday night’s activity took place at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, a two level burlesque-themed restaurant and bar – one of the newer, trendier venues in downtown Denver. The band was Foundation of Funk, a supergroup featuring the original rhythm section from The Meters, bassist George Porter, Jr. and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste. Joining the classic NOLA funk lineup was virtuosic keyboardist John Medeski and Eddie Roberts, the guitarist of The New Mastersounds, who spent considerable time in New Orleans but currently resides in Denver. The four master musicians paid homage to classic Meters compositions to roughly 400 dancing revelers at the sold-out (possibly oversold?) Ophelia’s.
The opener was youthful cover band Dirty Revival from Portland, OR, who put down a danceable and eclectic set of familiar soul and R&B tunes from ‘No Diggity’ to the Joe Cocker version of ‘A Little Help From My Friends.’ They were certainly a capable and worthy opener in terms of musicianship, but the stage presence of their powerful frontwoman/singer was the highlight of the performance.
Things got a little more crowded as the headlining act approached, and my crew and I were lucky to find distinct perches on the back stairs leading down to the dance floor. Ophelia’s is really a tiny place, so we were no more than 40 feet from the stage. The band finally arrived on the stage, and wasted no time busting out the funk with a familiar ‘aaaaAH-yah!’ opening shout of their classic, ‘Cissy Strut’. The rest of the setlist continued to please longtime fans with more classic Meters funk – ‘Fire on the Bayou’, ‘People Say’ and ‘Hey Pocky A-Way’ were all met with raucous enthusiasm from the crowd.
They also took time to jam, and while George and Zigaboo handled all the vocals, there was plenty of room for Eddie Roberts and John Medeski to display their skills. Eddie was scorching hot this particular evening, laying down his incredibly quick, crisp staccato with ferocity on his hollow-body guitar. A friend remarked that John Medeski is a pretty nice ‘sidepiece’ to feature alongside these incredibly talented musicians, but John proceeded to shred through some raging organ jams and received his fair share of attention from the eager crowd. There aren’t many keyboardists I’d rather see in this particular setup, at least not outside of the late Bernie Worrell or Art Neville himself. Of course, the original members of the Meters had their turns, and Zigaboo Modeliste reminded us all that he was one of the original innovators of funk rhythm and percussion, while George Porter Jr. looked and sounded good as ever. Here’s a Medeski-focused clip I found on YouTube (not mine):
The set continued through vintage funk hits, but ended around midnight and the crew still wanted to party, so we headed to Bee On Key, the new hippie/Dead bar in Cap Hill neighborhood. I don’t remember too much from that point on but I think the band was called Polytoxic Van Halen or something? I do remember having a great time the whole night!